Cover image for Leonardo da Vinci : the complete paintings
Leonardo da Vinci : the complete paintings
Marani, Pietro C.
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Uniform Title:
Leonardo. English
Publication Information:
New York : Abrams, 2000.
Physical Description:
384 pages (some folded) : illustrations (some color) ; 34 cm

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ND623.L5 M32413 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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This exquisite & luxuriously produced monograph is the seminal volume on the paintings of the great Renaissance master.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For half a millennium, one Renaissance painter has been revered above all others--Leonardo da Vinci. As readers of Sherwin B. Nuland's brief Leonardo da Vinci [BKL O 1 00] know, though, Leonardo rarely finished any project, kept his plate heaped with other endeavors, and may not have considered painting his most important activity. Thus this enormous tome tracks only 31 paintings in all media. Those it covers intensively, recording possible precedents for design and technique in the work of other artists, calling attention to significant details, offering preparatory drawings and cartoons for comparison with the finished, which is not to say completed, works, and presenting X rays to elucidate the gestation of the Mona Lisa and other paintings Leonardo spent years striving to perfect. Such scrupulous attention to Leonardo's total creative process boosts the number of illustrations, mostly colorplates, to 295. The text, including notes, occupies well less than half the total page space. Who's complaining? --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

Although Marani addresses the whole of da Vinci's fragmentary and limited oeuvre and then some, this volume is in no way a traditional catalogue raisonn‚. With a profound familiarity with the relevant scholarship and a keen sensitivity to the paintings, this volume is nevertheless partial and idiosyncratic in its treatment and definition of the master's work. While sharply aware of the paintings' nuances, graphic analogs, and relationship to Renaissance and antique art, the author betrays an inattention to compositional and pictorial innovation, iconographic content, and the problem of the non-finito, which diminishes this work's value as an introductory text. Similarly, the influence of classical sculpture on the later paintings, an important topic worthy of some discussion, is overemphasized. Despite a comprehensive gathering of excellent reproductions, this is a necessary acquisition only for collections serving advanced students of Vinciana.ÄRobert Cahn, Fashion Inst. of Technology, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The traditional monograph has faded away, and in its place comes this happy marriage of coffee-table book and scholarly monograph. English-language publications on Leonardo since Martin Kemp's important but soberly restrained production, Leonardo da Vinci, The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man (Ch, Dec'81) have been selective; often they have been exhibition catalogs dedicated to parts of the notebooks. Marani (Politecnico di Milano) offers a comprehensive and expert analysis of Leonardo's artistic work--not evenly comprehensive, but delightfully rich in treating attribution issues as well as problems of conservation and restoration, and both of these in historical perspective. This is his third book on the artist, and as chief of the final phases of the restoration of the Last Supper, Marani is superbly positioned to know the paintings inside out. The delectable color photography brings the reader along with him, sticking one's nose into the paint surfaces to see Leonardo at a close range never before possible in reproduction. Valuable appendixes provide documents in the original language and a checklist of paintings and lost works. It has been too rare to find an art history book that was beautiful, revelatory, and intelligently argumentative: here we have a model. Readers at all levels. P. Emison; University of New Hampshire



Chapter One In Verrocchio's Workshop An anonymous denunciation made to the city officials in Florence on April 9, 1474, states that one Jacopo Saltarelli, about seventeen years old, "has been party to many wretched things, and consents to please those persons who request such wickedness of him." Among the "dozens" of people whom Jacopo satisfied, four are named. They are an interesting mix of rich and poor: Baccino, a tailor; Bartolomeo di Pasquino, a goldsmith; Lionardo, a member of the aristocratic Tornabuoni family; and (listed second in the document) a twenty-four-year-old youth named "Lionardo di Ser Piero da Vinci," destined to become the most famous painter of the Italian Renaissance. The document concludes by making it very clear that all four men "had sodomized the abovementioned Jacopo." In the court proceeding that followed, all were absolved of misconduct.     This document is of extraordinary interest, and not simply for the questions it raises about the behavior of Florentine youths in the fifteenth century. It offers the first evidence that at this time Leonardo "was staying with Andrea del Verrocchio," the renowned Florentine painter and sculptor to whom he was apprenticed. This was confirmed two years later, when a second, identical accusation was investigated on June 7, 1476. This document identifies "Leonardo ser Pieri de Vincio," and says again that he was staying with Verrocchio--"manet cum Andrea del Verrocchio."     The first document tells us that the young Leonardo was immersed in a milieu in which artists, themselves considered artisans of the highest rank, mingled with craftsmen--such as goldsmiths or tailors--and aristocrats alike. (Indeed, had the latter not been present, it is unlikely that accusations against the four would have been made.) In 1550, the chronicler Giorgio Vasari gave an account of how Ser Piero, a notary, decided to place his illegitimate seventeen-year-old son, Leonardo, in the bottega, or workshop, of the best sculptor in Florence. His version creates an aura of myth around what was most likely no more than an expedient. Leonardo's father had six mouths to feed in the years between 1465, when his own father, Antonio, died, and 1469, when tradition has it that the young man joined Verrocchio's workshop. By apprenticing Leonardo, Ser Piero found a place for a son who was apparently inquisitive but inconstant in his studies (judging from the fact that at forty he was not proficient in either Latin or simple mathematics) and could not, therefore, have been much professional help to his father. Vasari writes: Although he occupied himself with such a variety of things, he never ceased drawing and working in relief, pursuits which suited his fancy more than any other. Ser Piero, having observed this, and having considered the loftiness of his intellect, one day took some of his drawings and carried them to Andrea del Verrocchio, who was much his friend, and besought him straitly to tell him whether Leonardo, by devoting himself to drawing, would make any proficience. Andrea was astonished to see the extraordinary beginnings of Leonardo, and urged Ser Piero that he should make him study it; wherefore he arranged with Leonardo that he should enter the workshop of Andrea, which Leonardo did with the greatest willingness in the world. Ser Piero lived in Florence. He had moved there from the small Tuscan town of Vinci perhaps as early as the early 1460s. The future artist was his illegitimate son by a woman from Vinci named Caterina (who later married an artisan named Antonio del Vacca, called l'Accattabriga, "the Quarreler"), and he was born there in 1452. We do not know precisely when he came to Florence. We have some indication that Ser Piero's first wife, Albiera di Giovanni Amadori, died and was buried there in 1464, and Piero remarried the following year. It has been proposed recently that the young man lived with his father and this second stepmother from the mid-1460s, suggesting that he began his apprenticeship with Verrocchio about five years before the traditionally accepted date of 1469 (the year in which Ser Piero submitted his catasto, or property-tax declaration). Given that the age of apprentices varied from fourteen to twenty-four, Leonardo would have been the right age to enter a workshop, in 1464.     Today, Verrocchio is known primarily as a sculptor, but he was an influential painter and teacher as well. His shop was very active in the 1470s and 1480s, winning important commissions from the Medici family and elsewhere, and attracting many bright young talents. Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, and Lorenzo di Credi all spent time there, and their artistic personalities were so closely interwoven with his that it is often difficult to distinguish his students' work from his own. From his workshop emerged a distinctive Verrocchian style in which individual hands are sometimes hard to identify. Indeed, no documents exist that attribute any painting to Verrocchio with certainty, and there is no solid evidence for dating the four or five works traditionally ascribed to him. Some of these may have been collaborations between the master and one or another of his pupils. The most famous example of this is The Baptism of Christ (page 63), now in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, but we will also examine several other paintings that appear to be collaborations, including an altarpiece, The Madonna di Piazza (page 67), for the cathedral in Pistoia, of which Lorenzo di Credi is probably the principal artist. In his later career, Verrocchio seems to have chosen this way of working deliberately, focusing most of his attention on sculpture and leaving his apprentices and pupils to execute his painting commissions. There is no other way to explain the Verrocchian quality that unifies the pictures produced by his shop.     Recent studies have restored to Verrocchio a central role in the development of Florentine Renaissance sculpture. His taste for classical forms anticipated an important aspect of the High Renaissance style of the early sixteenth century. These studies also emphasize the breadth of his inventiveness, freeing his reputation from the unwarranted suggestion that his sculptural work was influenced by Leonardo, which was improbable at least until the end of the 1470s. Unfortunately, these scholarly works fail to clarify the genesis of the collaboration among the painters of the workshop, or to explore how it may have functioned. Nor do they examine the more general problem of cooperation among artists that characterizes so much of the activity in Florentine workshops in the pivotal last quarter of the fifteenth century.     Leonardo was enrolled in the Florentine confraternity (or guild) of painters, the Scuola di San Luca, or Company of St. Luke, by 1472--the same year in which Botticelli's name also appears on its rolls. He was twenty years old, and must by then have been considered an independent master. It is clear that his relationship with Verrocchio, established between 1465 and about 1472, when he was most likely only an apprentice, did not end when he entered the confraternity. This is confirmed by the two anonymous denunciations of 1476, which note that he was "staying" (that is, living or working) with Verrocchio. Leonardo was certainly in Verrocchio's shop in 1472, when the latter was commissioned to make the copper orb for the lantern of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence, installed on May 27 of that year. Leonardo made a note about it some years later--"Remember how the ball of Santa Maria del Fiore was soldered together"--which sounds as if he was actually present at the installation.     The commission for the copper orb probably also provided an occasion for Leonardo to study Brunelleschi's building technology and the machines he had invented: the famous colla grande, or great hoist, which lifted heavy loads to the top of the dome, and the swiveling crane that was installed at the top of the lantern. The drawings Leonardo made of these devices can be dated to this time. The broad range of Verrocchio's activity must have introduced Leonardo to problems of casting, carpentry, and mechanics. His first ventures into these fields were a bit naive; one scholar has observed that his sketches of machines and other devices have oversized details. Compared to technological drawings by architects such as Bonaccorso Ghiberti or Giuliano da Sangallo (whose drawings of Brunelleschian machines he also copied), Leonardo's seem tentative, although they clearly reflect a desire to understand the mechanisms and their function. Indeed, he applied to these mechanical drawings the same spirit of inquiry present in his studies of landscape, plants, and animals.     As workshop master, Verrocchio had a decisive role in shaping the young Leonardo into a complete artist. The boy had early demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for observation, both as a draftsman and as a painter--and even, perhaps, as a sculptor. Judging from his substantial contribution to finishing The Baptism of Christ, we may speculate that he spent more time at Verrocchio's side than other members of the shop. Later in life, he claimed that all painters were "universal"; he may have developed this notion in Verrocchio's bottega, where a range of skills, intense study, and a high degree of preparation were demanded.     It is worth noting that several subjects and motifs generally credited to Leonardo's invention were Verrocchio's. For example, the clay heads of smiling women and putti that Vasari described as specialties of the young Leonardo, calling them "heads of women, beautiful in expression and in the adornment of the hair," are related to drawings by Verrocchio (which Vasari also notes). Among these is the Head of a Woman with an Elaborate Coiffure (page 12) in the British Museum in London. Leonardo used this motif some time later, in studies for the coiffure of Leda . Also attributable to Verrocchio is a type of drawing "on a certain kind of very fine Rheims cloth, or prepared linen," which, according to Vasari, Leonardo "executed in black and white with the point of the brush," drawing "models of figures in clay" draped with "soft pieces of cloth dipped in clay." Verrocchio seems to have made drawings like this before Leonardo, and probably taught him this unusual technique.     A prime example is a famous sketch of a draped figure (Uffizi 433E). It is a study for the bronze statue of Christ in Verrocchio's Incredulity of Thomas double sculpture (c. 1466-83), made for a niche on the facade of the Orsanmichele church in Florence (page 13). Leonardo scholars usually attribute this drawing to Leonardo, and Verrocchio scholars to Verrocchio. Recent scholarship has confirmed that Verrocchio received the commission for the sculpture between the end of 1466 and January 1467, and executed the bronze figure of Christ (the figure at right) first, between 1470 and 1476. It is noticeably different from the figure of St. Thomas (at left), which was made immediately after; the folds in Thomas's robes are narrower and less angular than in those of Christ, the edges softer and the surfaces more broken up. The Uffizi drawing, evidently a first idea for the figure of Christ (excluding the possibility that it was made after the finished sculpture), was probably done before 1470. Records show that the bronze for the sculpture was then ready for casting, indicating that the artist had worked out his final design for the figure. It thus seems likely that this sheet dates between 1467 and sometime before 1470.     Leonardo was then little more than fifteen years old; we have no drawings by him from these years. (His first known drawing, discussed below, dates to 1473.) We have, therefore, nothing to compare to this stupendous drawing on "fine Rheims linen," executed "in black and white with the point of the brush," to determine his possible authorship of it. The only convincing comparison is with Verrocchio's bronze sculpture, whose technique indeed recalls the use of terracotta models draped with clay-soaked fabric, as described by Vasari. (Verrocchio's notable facility with clay modeling is visible in such works as his Sleeping Youth in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin [page 14], Madonna and Child in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, and Bust of Christ in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)     If we reject Leonardo as author of the Uffizi sheet, we must also reconsider a group of chiaroscuro drawings now in the Louvre, attributed to the young Leonardo. These drawings were exhibited under his name in 1989, together with drawings from other collections that are similar in technique and were also drawn on linen. Earlier and recent scholars have noted that these drawings are by different hands, and an examination of them as a group makes this clear. Based on Leonardo's slightly later drawing (c. 1478) in the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe in Rome (Fondo Corsini 125770; page 60), we can safely attribute to him only two of the Louvre drawings, numbers 2256 and 2255 (pages 15, 16), both of which most likely relate to the Uffizi painting of The Annunciation, although the latter appears similar to the Virgin's drapery in a Ghirlandaio altarpiece also in the Uffizi (below). Two others in the Louvre (RF 41905 and RF 1081) may also pass muster, as well as one in the Fondation Custodia in Paris (6632; below), though this seems to be related to the weakest drawings in the group. The other drawings in this series can be attributed to either Verrocchio himself (Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts 794-1-2507) or Ghirlandaio (Berlin, Staatliche Museen 5039).     The technique of chiaroscuro brush drawing on linen seems, therefore, to have been something of a test for the young artists who passed through Verrocchio's shop. It seems, too, to have been absorbed by them and applied directly to the works they were executing in this period. A good example is the drawing in the Fondation Custodia, Paris (2491; page 18), which is unanimously attributed to Lorenzo di Credi and associated, perhaps, with the drapery of the Virgin in the Madonna di Piazza altarpiece in Pistoia Cathedral. This sheet also allows us another comparison with Leonardo's famous Louvre drawing (2255), from which Credi's is often thought to derive.     In Verrocchio's shop, drawing must have been the first exercise in an apprentice's art training, just as the Florentine painter Cennino Cennini had recommended a century earlier, in his treatise on art, and as Leonardo himself later advocated in his own Trattato della pittura, or Treatise on Painting . A careful look at Leonardo's later rules for artists suggests that the methods of study he codified--first to copy the drawings of the "boni maestri," the great masters; later to do life drawing--must have come from Verrocchio. We may speculate that his philosophy matured during the years he spent under the older artist's tutelage. If this is indeed the case, it is no wonder that there are problems in identifying the earliest drawings Leonardo made in Verrocchio's shop and in distinguishing which, if any, of the series of chiaroscuro drapery studies, executed with a brush on linen, are his. The practice of making drawings of clay models draped with clay-soaked fabric is not surprising in the shop of a sculptor, who used such models as maquettes for his three-dimensional works as well. This method is readily apparent in what may perhaps be Leonardo's earliest surviving paintings, the small Dreyfus Madonna (page 19) and The Madonna of the Carnation (page 35). (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Federico Motta.